Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurants are shoring up staff in preparation for the return of the brand’s new chicken sandwich, which sold out over the summer after an epic social media spat between the Southern brand and Chick-fil-A.
“Popeyes can confirm that across the system, franchisees have worked to increase staffing to be ready to serve guests once the chicken sandwich returns,” the company told Nation’s Restaurant News on Thursday.
The statement was triggered after the CEO of Sun Holdings Inc., which operates 150 Popeyes, told Bloomberg this week that his units are hiring about 400 additional workers to help with demand when the sandwich returns in early November.
On Monday, Oct. 28, the brand confirmed that the sandwich would return Nov. 3.
The chain, a division of Restaurant Brands International, launched the permanent menu item in mid-August. Initially, the internal marketing campaign drew lackluster results.
But then, the internet took over.
Demand for the chicken sandwich exploded after Chick-fil-A tweeted that it was the home of the original chicken sandwich. That triggered a firestorm of tweets – from consumers and quick-service chains -- about who serves the best chicken sandwich.
Brands from Wendy’s to emerging concepts such as The Crack Shack weighed in. McDonald’s and Jack in the Box took advantage by introudcing limited-time chicken sandwiches after Popeyes units sold out of its new menu item.
The Popeyes sandwich features a buttermilk battered and hand breaded white meat chicken filet served on a toasted brioche bun. Toppings include barrel cured pickles and choice of standard mayonnaise or spicy Cajun spread.
According to market research, Popeyes should be motivated to get the item back on the menu.
The brand’s traffic was up 218% over their previous July numbers according to Pacer.ai’s data analysis. Traffic continued to rise after the sandwich was sold out Aug. 27, with the last few days of the month continuing an upward trajectory
U.K.-based internet market research firm YouGov said Popeyes’ “advertising awareness” soared among consumers after the crispy chicken sandwich sold out. The firm said 28% of consumers in mid-September said they saw a Popeyes ad, nearly double from early August before the sandwich launched.
Popeyes has more than 3,000 restaurants in the U.S. and around the world.
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Update, Oct. 28: This story was updated to include the confirmed return date of the Popeyes sandwich.